Photo: Downtown San Diego

The dawn light washes over downtown San Diego.

Photograph by QT Luong/

The first European settlement on the West Coast, now America’s eighth-largest city, San Diego no longer chooses to be defined solely by 70 miles (112 kilometers) of beaches, supreme weather, a forward-leaning zoo, or its naval history. Though denizens still cling to a pair of flip-flops, in the past decade the city’s economy has been boosted by biotech and telecom industries—the influx of high-paying jobs produced an incursion of talent and fresh perspective, allowing the city to blossom culturally, with money filtering into the arts and helping the dining scene flourish. Downtown’s revitalization has been most dramatic, originating in the Gaslamp Quarter, followed by a new ballpark in 2004 and block after block of restaurants, hotels, and condos, turning the city into a major convention destination. But the city’s finest asset, its outdoor recreation areas, thrive close by and are a top attraction for those who invest the time to discover them.

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